I once saw a beautiful online photo tribute a man made for his wife. It was a series of black and white pictures chronicling their relationship, her battle with cancer, and her eventual death. In the first picture, they’re sitting side by side on the front stairs, soda bottles in hand, full of life. The final pictures are haunting. One looks through a car windshield on a rainy day to the hearse up ahead. The other is of a tombstone.
What haunted me most was the name on the tombstone. It’s mine. And the years on either side of the dash. She was young. Not much older than me.
We never really know how old we are. An eighteen year old might be older than an eighty year old, depending on how much time is gifted to them on this earth. My husband’s dear grandma lived to be 107 years old. I met her when she was 84 and still going strong, dancing up a storm and smoking her cigarettes backward. (She since gave up smoking, proving it’s never too late to quit!). She was younger when I met her than some of my peers who’ve since moved on from this life.
The question that remains is this: what will I do with that small dash between the years? However short or long it may be, I want to do something meaningful. I want to live fully, to love deeply. I want to give my life for something that matters. Something that will outlast me. I can’t be satisfied to go through the motions one more day.
The woman in the pictures clearly lived a beautiful life, short as it was. She left behind people who love her and feel the pain of the gap she’s left behind. I don’t want to leave this world unnoticed. I don’t want to leave the world unaffected by my being here. But I know it’s not always the big things that matter. More often, it’s the little things that add up to the dash between the years.
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:4-7)